The “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” repeal debate was voted to be blocked by all of the Republicans and three Democrats. The 53-47 vote fell a few short of the 60 votes needed to get it into the President’s desk.
“The whole thing is a political train wreck,” said Richard Socarides, a White House adviser on gay rights during the Clinton administration.
Democrats included the repeal provision in a $726 billion defense policy bill, which authorizes a pay raise for the troops among other popular programs. In a deal brokered with the White House, the measure would have overturned the 1993 law banning openly gay service only after a Pentagon review and certification from the president that lifting the ban wouldn’t hurt troop morale.
Democratic Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor of Arkansas sided with Republicans to block the bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also voted against the measure as a procedural tactic. Under Senate rules, casting his vote with the majority of the Senate enables him to revive the bill at a later date if he wants.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine had been seen as the crucial 60th vote because she supports overturning the military ban. But Collins agreed with her GOP colleagues that Republicans weren’t given sufficient chance to offer amendments.
Reid allowed Republicans the opportunity to offer only one amendment to address GOP objections on the military’s policy on gays.
Collins said she planned to vote against advancing the bill unless Democrats agreed to extend debate so that her colleagues could weigh in on other issues.
Jim Manley, a spokesman for Reid, said the senator would be willing to allow more debate on the bill after the November elections.
“Today’s vote isn’t about arcane Senate procedures,” Manley said. “It’s about a GOP’s pattern of obstructing debate on policies important to the American people.”
An estimated 13,000 people have been discharged under the law since its inception in 1993. Although most dismissals have resulted from gay service members outing themselves, gay rights’ groups say it has been used by vindictive co-workers to drum out troops who never made their sexuality an issue.